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It's Been Said Before

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Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Review of  Linguistics

Reviewer: Michael Shelton
Book Title: Linguistics
Book Author: Andrew Radford Martin Atkinson David Britain Harald Clahsen Andrew Spencer
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Issue Number: 20.4342

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AUTHORS: Andrew Radford, Martin Atkinson, David Britain, Harald Clahsen, &
Andrew Spencer
TITLE: Linguistics
SUBTITLE: An Introduction
SERIES: 2nd Edition
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2009

Michael Shelton, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics, Occidental College

This textbook is a thorough introduction to generative approaches to
linguistics. It is unique in its organization in that it divides its discussion
of theory into three broad categories: ''sounds,'' ''words,'' and ''sentences.''
Within each division, a description of theory is presented first, followed by
research in applied/related disciplines that support the previous theoretical
concerns. Each section of the book is followed by short collections of exercises
and recommendations for further reading. In this review, I will outline the
specific organization of the text and follow with a critical evaluation of its

In the introduction to their text, the authors state that the major perspective
adopted in the book is that language is a cognitive system that can be studied
both as part of a psychological structure as well as an aspect of social
structure. It is immediately clear to the informed reader that the authors
follow the Chomskyan approach to theoretical linguistics. They also raise
interest in language acquisition, psycho/neurolinguistics and sociolinguistics
as these fields can inform the theories of Universal Grammar described in the
later chapters of the book. The remainder of the introduction identifies five
related fields which will be examined throughout the rest of the textbook:
linguistics (theoretical), developmental linguistics, psycholinguistics,
neurolinguistics, and sociolinguistics. In the subsection on theoretical
linguistics, the authors present the competence/performance distinction, as well
as general concepts related to phonology and syntax. They introduce the concepts
of Phonetic Form (PF) and Logical Form (LF) and present Universal Grammar (UG)
as the principal goal of linguistic study, in addition to the study of
individual language grammars. In their subsection on developmental linguistics
the innateness hypothesis is discussed, including Chomsky's language acquisition
program and the poverty of the stimulus. The subsection on psycholinguistics
presents the general concept of language processing with a simplified model of
language comprehension. Terminology such as aphasia, specific language
impairment (SLI), Broca's and Wernicke's areas, and imaging techniques are
discussed in the subsection on neurolinguistics. In their subsection on
sociolinguistics, the authors present language use as characterized by variation
among speakers based on societal factors and situational contexts (e.g. Labov's
apparent-time approach).

After the introduction appears Part I, the first large division of the book. It
is entitled ''Sounds'' and is divided into seven sections. Section 1 is an
introduction that motivates the study of the phonological system and introduces
the subsequent sections. Section 2, 'Sounds and suprasegmentals,' begins with a
discussion of the difference between phones and graphemes and introduces the
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). A traditional presentation of
articulatory phonetics of English follows. In example words, British English is
the preferred dialect for transcription, although the authors do include
examples from other dialects in exercises and example data in later sections.
The reader then finds a discussion of suprasegmental features, including a clear
discussion of the differences between stress, accent, tone, and intonation.
Section 3 concerns sound variation, focusing principally on sociolinguistic
change. Beginning with linguistic and then sociological variables, the authors
offer an engaging discussion of sociolinguistic variation via examples of famous
studies such as Trudgill's work on standard-nonstandard variants in Norwich
(1974), Milroy's research on social networks in Belfast (1987), Eckert's studies
of jocks and burnouts in Detroit (2000), and Labov's investigation of rhotics in
New York (1972). Section 4 concerns sound change, beginning with consonantal
processes such as flapping, spirantization, and yod-dropping, and then moving to
vowel change including merger/split and chain shifts. Broader issues such as
regularity in sound change and lexical diffusion follow. The final subsection,
suprasegmental change, discusses historical stress shifts in English that have
led to stress-marked noun/verb distinctions. Section 5 is entitled 'Phonemes,
syllables and phonological processes.' It begins by introducing the phoneme and
discussing distribution. Here the syllable is discussed in detail including how
to diagram syllables, phonotactic constraints, the sonority principle, and the
maximal onset principle. The subsection on phonological processes introduces the
concepts of underlying representation (UR) and surface representation (SR). A
subsection on phonological features presents distinctive features,
underspecification, natural classes, and how to read phonological rule notation.
Finally, a very short discussion of Optimality Theory (OT) concludes section 5.
Section 6 discusses first language (L1) phonological acquisition. This section
begins by describing the early milestones in phonological development and
introduces experimental techniques in infant research, such as sucking rates,
head turns, and heart rate studies. The authors conclude this section with a
generative theory of phonological acquisition (dual-lexicon model), which
accounts for child phonological processes such as prevocalic voicing, fricative
stopping, and vowel/consonant harmony. This subsection also describes concepts
such as despecification, feature spreading, and Stray Erasure. The final section
in Part I discusses speech perception and production. Experimental methods such
as identification and discrimination tasks present speech perception. Speech
production is presented with a discussion of error analyses, such as
spoonerisms, anticipations, perseverations, and substitutions. These errors are
motivated in a discussion of forward planning and the scan-copier model. This
section concludes with a subsection on other aspects of phonological processing,
which discusses poetics and alphabet development.

Part II, ''Words,'' is an introduction to morphology and the mental lexicon. This
segment of the book is also divided into seven sections. After an introductory
section (8), sections 9-12 introduce theoretical perspectives, and the following
sections (13-16) discuss acquisitional, psycholinguistic, and sociolinguistic
concerns, as well as an informative section on language disorders. Section 9,
'Word classes,' presents the reader with a discussion of morphological
categories. This section covers lexical and functional categories, word
formation, and derivational morphology. Section 9 ends with a discussion of
inflection and inflectional categories. Focusing on the principal morphological
properties of English verbs, this subsection examines agreement, tense, aspect,
transitivity, and active/passive voice. 'Building words,' section 10, is a
traditional introduction to morphology, defining morphemes, bound/free
morphemes, roots and affixes. After the introduction of basic terminology,
section 10 continues by examining derivational and inflectional processes with a
discussion of the implications of these processes for the lexical representation
of words. Other morphological aspects of English, such as compounding and
clitics, are considered next. Here the reader learns about recursion and
structural ambiguity. Section 10 concludes with a discussion of allomorphy,
including the phonological/lexical conditioning of allomorphs, suppletion, and
the Separation Hypothesis. Section 11, 'Morphology across the languages,' is a
very informative section that takes the reader outside of English to view other
morphological processes that are found in the world's languages. Discussing
processes in languages such as Turkish, Latin, Chukchee, and Tagalog, this
section introduces the reader to isolating, agglutinating, inflectional, and
polysynthetic languages and processes. Inflectional classes are also discussed,
including case/number endings, declensions, conjugations, and syncretism. This
section ends with the difference between concatenative and non-concatenative
morphology, with examples of processes such as reduplication, ablaut, umlaut,
circumfixation and infixation. Section 12 breaks away from morphology proper to
discuss semantics and the structure of the lexicon. It begins with entailment
and follows with semantic relationships such as hyponymy, synonymy, antonymy,
and complementarity. This section ends with the presentation of semantic
distinctive features and a very short introduction to prototypes. Section 13
introduces the reader to the acquisition of morphology. Following a short
description of early child speech, the reader finds a review of influential
studies in L1 morphological acquisition, including the wug test and Brown's
ordering of verbal morphology. Next the authors discuss developmental processes
such as overregularization and how children's intuitions regarding morphology,
such as novel compounds, reflect the organization of their morphological
systems. The following subsection returns to semantics to discuss developmental
processes such as overextensions, which are discussed in relation to distinctive
features and taxonomic relationships. Section 14 introduces lexical processing
and the mental lexicon. Serial-autonomous and parallel-interactive processing
models start the discussion. The authors introduce activation and priming
through examples of processing studies. They argue that serial-autonomous models
are reliant upon phonology for processing, whereas parallel-interactive models
arguably allow more access to contextual information. The following subsection
examines Levelt's model as exemplary of the representation of words in the
mental lexicon. This section differentiates between lexemes and lemmas,
lemma-level and form-level encoding, and introduces a small set of speech
errors, specifically blends, substitutions, and word exchanges. Section 14
concludes with another brief mention of prototypes and semantic 'distance' in
the lexicon. Lexical disorders are discussed in section 15, which offers a
detailed discussion of aphasia and SLI. This section presents the symptoms of
Broca's and Wernicke's aphasia as well as related consequences, such as
telegraphic speech and frequency, categorization-level, and similarity effects.
Lastly, this section examines the inflectional systems of SLI subjects. The
final section of Part II is entitled 'Lexical variation and change.' Section 16
explores cross-linguistic and cross-dialectal variation. Concepts such as
borrowings (including resulting phonological and morphological changes),
calques, and register are discussed within the context of language/dialect
contact. From a historical perspective, the text discusses semantic broadening
and narrowing over time, as well as amelioration and pejoration. The final
subsection examines variation and change in morphology with examples from
African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and East Anglian English, as well as
empirical studies of phonological variation of '-ing' endings across dialects of
English. In this reviewer's opinion, this final section reads more like a
discussion of sociolinguistic variation of phonology rather than morphology.
Nonetheless, it rounds out an informative section on variation that the curious
reader will find both entertaining and informative.

Part III concerns the sentence-level of linguistic inquiry and comprises an
in-depth introduction to generative syntax. This is the largest section of the
book, divided into eleven sections. After the introduction, sections 18-23 cover
theoretical syntax, and sections 24-27 introduce acquisition of syntax, sentence
processing, syntactic disorders and pragmatics, respectively. Section 18
introduces the concept of the clause and presents the reader with basic
terminology to discuss syntactic categories and functions. Included in this
discussion are constituents, a detailed description of case with English
pronouns, finiteness, and clause functions. Section 19 is an introduction to
X-Bar Theory. It begins by introducing merger and the basic concepts of phrase
structure, such as heads and phrase projection. The authors then motivate Tense
Phrase (TP) through a discussion of infinitival subordinate clauses. The
remainder of this section discusses tests for constituency such as coordination,
spec-head agreement, case assignment in English, and the selectional properties
of verbs. Section 20 is a detailed section which motivates and discusses the
main properties of empty categories. An empty head for TP is argued for in
various contexts including African American Vernacular English (AAVE), gapping
structures, tag questions, do-support, and bare infinitive clauses. Next are two
short subsections introducing PRO and covert complements. The final subsection
of section 20 introduces complementizer phrases (CP) and determiner phrases (DP)
and asserts that all nominals are D-projections and all clauses are
C-projections. Section 21 introduces movement. It covers basic examples of head
and operator movement, introducing important concepts such as traces and the
Economy Principle. Yes-no questions are also examined, with polarity items
offered as evidence for a covert yes/no operator in Spec-CP. This section
concludes with examples of other types of movement such as topicalization and
passivization. Section 22 introduces parameters with a discussion of syntactic
variation, such as inversion in AAVE and null subjects in Early Modern English.
This section ends with a crosslinguistic comparison of head direction in English
and German. Section 23 closes the introduction to syntactic theory by discussing
sentence-level semantics and LF. The authors present arguments for covert
movement at LF via a discussion of structural ambiguity, thematic roles, and
truth conditions. Very clear tree diagrams offer the reader examples of movement
throughout this section and introduce concepts such as coindexation, bound
variable interpretation and the Crossover Principle. Section 24 examines aspects
of child syntactic development couched within Principles and Parameters Theory
(PPT). In this section, the authors argue that the acquisition of syntax is
limited principally to setting parameters. Examples of child syntax are
considered, such as null subjects and non-finite clauses in child English. After
examples of null heads in child DPs, the final subsection argues for
underspecification of functional categories in child speech. Section 25 begins
with a definition of sentence parsing. Next it examines processing studies that
offer support for the previously mentioned syntactic theories. Example
experiments include click studies and probe-recognition tasks for recency
effects in filler-gap dependency. The processing of structural ambiguities is
examined next, focusing on attachment preferences, garden-path sentences and
center-embedding. The discussion returns to aphasia and SLI in section 26, this
time from a syntactic perspective. Here agrammatism is described as a deficit in
the interpretation/construction of functional projections, while paragrammatism
is only mentioned briefly as it is considered a condition concerning lexical
access not syntactic processing. Based on multiple examples from German, the
authors close this section by describing SLI as an impairment of the
inflectional system. The last section of Part III is entitled 'Using sentences'
and comprises a traditional introduction to pragmatics. In this final section,
the reader learns basic concepts such as deixis, prosody in relation to
topic/focus, presuppositions, speech acts, the Cooperative Principle and Gricean
maxims, implicature, Relevance Theory, and turn-taking in conversation analysis.

This textbook, as admitted by the authors in their introduction, is strictly an
introduction to Chomskyan linguistics. The reader finds very few references to
any linguistic accounts other than traditional generative grammar. This makes
the text a perfect fit for use in intermediate-level courses on generative
linguistics. However, for those readers/instructors who are looking for a
broader introduction to the field, the lack of alternative viewpoints and
approaches may be disappointing. For example, while the authors include a
description of articulatory phonetics, which later feeds into their discussion
of generative phonology, no description of acoustic features is included. While
the text does include examples of a historical nature throughout, no mention of
large language families, e.g. Indoeuropean, are found. Perhaps due to comments
from the first edition, it appears that the authors have made attempts to
include some presentation of alternative frameworks, such as their discussion of
OT in phonology. However, these sections feel disjointed from the remainder of
the text, as though they were being presented as an afterthought, rather than as
an important line of research in current linguistic studies. As frequency has
been shown to play a large role in language use and representation, some
reference to usage-based theories as well would make the text a more thorough
introduction. Similarly, unlike most other introductory linguistics textbooks
(e.g. Fromkin et al. 2007, Bergmann et al. 2007, Curzman & Adams 2009, Finegan
2008) this text offers no contextualization of linguistics within the broader
discussion of language studies, such as animal vs. human communication or
Hockett's design features. This is likely due to the narrow focus adopted by the

Perhaps the most attractive feature of this textbook is its organization into
three predominantly independent, although smoothly transitioned, sections on
sounds, words and sentences. This book differs from most introductory texts in
that areas of research such as acquisition studies, psycho/neurolinguistics,
sociolinguistics and diachronic change are not compartmentalized into separate
chapters. Rather each level of linguistic inquiry is discussed first from a
theoretical perspective which is then supported by and reinforced with studies
from related fields. This approach gives the reader a strong understanding of
both theoretical and applied research within phonology, morphology, and syntax.
A possible limitation to this structuring of the text is that it proves
difficult to examine these related fields individually. For example, if readers
are interested in child language in general, they must consult three separate
chapters of the book. However, in this reviewer's opinion, this nontraditional
approach to the organization of an introductory text helps the reader better
understand the various branches of linguistic research and the interdisciplinary
nature of related fields.

A matter of concern related to the organization of the text, however, is its
intended audience. As the theoretical scope of the text is narrow, so too is the
intended audience. I would be surprised if this textbook could easily be
incorporated into a true introductory linguistics course at the undergraduate
level or be read by the layman with a casual interest in linguistics. While the
title and organization of the book suggest that the text is intended for use by
novices in the classroom, the authors indicate in their notes for course
organizers and class teachers that the book is more appropriate for graduate
students, students of more specialized courses in phonology, morphology, or
syntax, or for students who have completed an introductory course which is at a
somewhat lower level than what they are aiming at in this text. I agree that the
most appropriate use for this text is probably in a more specialized
graduate-level course, or as a basic reference for students who would appreciate
a fundamental review of introductory generative grammar. This may also be the
most practical application of the text given its length and in-depth discussion
of the material. It would be very difficult to incorporate the entire text in an
introductory course at any level. However, as individual courses of study, or as
a reference, the three divisions of the text offer sound introductions to the
theory and methods of research in each field.

Another strong point of this text is its exercises. The authors have included a
large amount of empirical studies in the practice sections that give the student
the opportunity to work with real data. One aspect that I found particularly
appealing is that the individual exercises at the end of each section are
referenced within the text itself. After each concept is introduced, the reader
is referred to specific exercises at the end of the chapter that concern the
topic under discussion. In this way readers may make use of the exercises as
they read, not only once they reach the end of a lengthy section. One problem
with some examples in the text, both in exercises as well as within the
discussion of the material itself, are the examples from American English. As a
native speaker from the United States, I was surprised by transcriptions of
American English exhibiting non-rhotic pronunciation and unnatural sounding
vowels (ex. 8, p. 46), lexical items that are listed as typical of this dialect
which I do not recognize (p. 227), and sentence structure that is crucial to
understanding the exposition of syntactic theory that appears ungrammatical to
my intuitions (ex. 237b, 450a). For a North American student who is just
beginning to learn to transcribe and to understand generative theory, these
examples and the adoption of British English as the preferred dialect throughout
could make this text more difficult without extra support from the instructor.
At the same time, it is clear that the authors are very aware of their diverse
audience and have included examples from not only standard British and American
dialects but also standard New Zealander, Australian, and South African
varieties as well as nonstandard dialects in the U.S. and Britain. This range of
inclusion is impressive.

If we compare this text to other introductory texts, a few more observations
also arise. First, after exploring the ancillary sections at the end of the
book, it is surprising to find no glossary. While principal concepts are found
in bold-face with clear definitions throughout the text, a centralized reference
for readers at the end of an introductory text would be a very welcome addition
to the next edition. Two useful sections in this text are the appendices which
include the IPA chart and a chart of the distinctive phonological features of
English. However, the IPA chart is unfortunately not the most recent revision,
something perhaps overlooked for the second edition of the text. The book's
bibliography contains an adequate listing of sources that are pertinent to the
material discussed throughout the text, although many researchers whose work is
discussed in the chapters are listed without specific citation or reference and
are absent from the bibliography. Students who would like to read further on
many of the basic studies described in the book will have to find the references
on their own. The inclusion of the specific sources used as examples throughout
the text would greatly improve this text's bibliography. Two final observations
that stand out when comparing this introduction to similar texts is the
discussion of sign languages and lexical processing. First, sign languages are
quickly dismissed by the authors in the first chapter when they state that
''their serious study requires the introduction of a considerable amount of
specialized terminology for which we do not have space in an introductory book
of this kind.'' Given the extremely specialized terminology included throughout
this text, it is unlikely that the inclusion of sign languages would have proved
too technical. On the contrary, many texts do include reference to sign language
phonology, morphology, and syntax, which offers examples of comparison between
modalities. This would be a possible addition to this book, especially given the
growing amount of bimodal research in the field. Lastly, the presentation of
lexical processing is less a discussion of lexical activation and more one of
syntactic processing with certain implications for the organization of the
lexicon. The models are described with regards to their ability to use
contextual cues to interpret words out of sentences, which is an area usually
studied under parsing strategies. A discussion of the levels of representation
in processing models and the interaction between them, the more traditional
approach to the study of processing words in the lexicon, seems to be lacking.

The previous limitations notwithstanding, this text is a uniquely-organized,
solid introduction to Chomskyan linguistics. The semi-autonomous sections of
this book have multiple possible applications in graduate-level courses or as an
appealing reference book. While not appropriate for true novices or for a broad
introduction to language and linguistic studies, this text offers a stable
foundation in the prominent generative framework.

Bergmann, A., Currie Hall, K., & Ross, S. M., (Eds.). (2007). Language files 10.
Columbus: The Ohio State University Press.
Curzman, A., & Adams, M. (2009). How English works: A linguistic introduction.
New York: Pearson/Longman.
Eckert, P. (2000). Linguistic variation as social practice: The linguistic
construction of identity in Belten High. Oxford: Blackwell.
Finegan, E. (2008). Language: Its structure and use. Boston: Thomson/Wadsworth.
Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., & Hyams, N. (2007). An introduction to language.
Boston: Thomson/Wadsworth.
Labov, W. (1972). Sociolinguistic patterns. Oxford: Blackwell.
Milroy, L. (1987). Language and social networks. Oxford: Blackwell.
Trudgill, P. (1974). The social differentiation of English in Norwich.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Michael Shelton received his Ph.D. in Hispanic linguistics from The Pennsylvania State University. He currently teaches general linguistics, Hispanic linguistics and Spanish language at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA, USA. His principle research interests are experimental approaches to phonology, the cognitive representation of phonological structure, and language processing.

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